It’s an animal that can survive in the harshest conditions of the driest landscapes on earth like no other.
The Oryx Antelope.
With several adaptations to heat and the lack of water, they live where you don’t think anything can survive.
The oryx is found in most countries in southern Africa but embodies the spirit of the Namib desert since it made this lifeless place to its home like no other animal. Having successfully adapted to harsh conditions where scarce water and intense heat are the norm, its no surprise that this large mammal has solidified itself as the country’s national animal. The Gemsbok or oryx, Oryx Gazella, is an iconic symbol of Namibia, appearing on the country’s coat of arms. Oryx antelopes are renowned for its courage, elegance and pride.
Oryx are considered by some to be the most handsome and striking antelope species. Striped like a race car and possessing two horns much like those of the mythical unicorn, it is the unique social structure of this species that sets it apart from others. These animals form mixed herds of both females and males, unlike other antelope which typically employ the ‘harem’ system of one male controlling a group of females. Another interesting fact is that both sexes of the species have horns, although the male’s horns are marginally shorter and thicker.
Oryx may have been the original unicorns. When you look at an oryx from a certain angle, it looks as though it only has one horn.
Even Aristotle himself believed this, considering the oryx as the unicorn’s prototype.
These animals know exactly where to find water even if it hasn’t rained in years. There are some hidden spots they’ll always return to for water or plants carrying moisture. They eat at night or early in the morning where plants have up to 42 percent of humidity in them in comparison to barely 1 percent humidity during daytime. This allows them to live off the water in the plants in case they do not have access to a water hole. These animals are perhaps also best known for their ability to wander far and wide when food and water is scarce, making them the quintessential Namibian animal.
Extreme desert temperatures are no problem to these hardy antelope, which use nasal panting to keep their brains cool while the rest of their body temperature soars. The gemsbok draws air in rapidly via its nose, cooling the air molecules down in the process. Capillaries in the nose of the antelope then send this air-cooled blood to the brain. They waste no precious moisture by sweating. The black and white markings on their bellies and legs is thought to reflect heat, thereby keeping their bodies as cool as possible.
Another adaptation of their life in the desert and the sandy ground they usually walk on is the shape of their hooves. These hooves are broader than usual at antelopes so they won’t sink when walking on sand and crossing dunes.
They run elegantly across the vastness of desert landscapes without burning their hooves on the hot sand.
Gemsbok are minimally gregarious, usually occurring in small herds as this limits competition for food. A female leaves the herd to give birth and hides the calf for its first two or three weeks of life, visiting a few times a day to nurse it. The newborn is an inconspicuous brown color. The black markings begin to appear when the calf is ready to return to the herd with its mother.
While the oryx antelopes mainly roam the wide-open grasslands they also live in more mountainous
terrain like the Namib Naukluft mountains or make the dunes of the Namib desert or those in the Kalahari to their home.
Predators found in those areas such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, and wild dogs are a danger for the gemsbok and cause a high mortality rate among the young calves. But the oryx aren’t defenseless animals. On the contrary, they are classified as the most dangerous antelopes due to their spiky horns and lone bulls are known to have killed lions before.
These horns aren’t just used to defend themselves and fight off predators but have several advantages for the animals. They can use those horns to lift up fences and crawl underneath them after lifting their head. It is quite an impressive behavior adjusting to the countless fences made by mankind cutting through their territory.
These desert masters have been living in some of the toughest environments on earth for thousands of years. These animals have evolved and adapted over the years to survive this unforgiving desert, and thus form a unique part of the Namibian experience. Enjoy the safari with Fine Art Gallery focusing on the Namibian Icon – The Oryx antelope.
Yours in Art
In memory of Voortrekker
the iconic desert elephant
We would like to tell you a tale of courage, perseverance and tenacity. It is the story of the 50-year – old patriarch Voortrekker, the famous Namib Desert Elephant bull pictured above. Voortrekker means “pioneer,” “the leader,” or “the one who shows the way.” Never has there been a name more apt than his. He was shot on 25th June 2019.
After Voortrekker was killed last year EHRA ( Elephant – Human – Relation – Aid ) made a promise to never let another free-roaming desert elephant die due to hunting or human-wildlife conflict. But due to the outbreak of Covid-19, and resulting travel ban in Namibia, the future of the critical conservation work is grave and they can no longer keep that promise. EHRA cannot survive for another two weeks, if they don’t receive support. They rely heavily on funds from international volunteers to run their conservation efforts but without their support, they have no money.
Without your help, EHRA is forced to close doors!
Award-winnng wildlife artist Christine Lamberth and Fine Art Gallery have teamed up to support the vital work of EHRA and will launch a fundraiser in aid of EHRA on 25.06.2019 – „ 100 Prints for Voortrekker „ – an online auction with amazing prices to be won. All proceeds will be 100 % donated to EHRA.
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In the 1980s there were no elephants left in the northwestern stretch of Namibia’s Kunene region due to over-hunting and rampant poaching. Then in 1989, Voortrekker visited the area, scouting around for a couple of weeks, patiently assessing every possible location, looking for danger, protection, hide-aways, watering holes and secret juicy food supplies.
A few weeks later Voortrekker returned, bringing his family to the Ugab River area. The small group of elephants must have been surprised at their leader’s actions, but trusted him implicitly, as his instincts always had turned out right before. The family unit, consisting of only about 20 individual elephants, had moved in. The Damaraland Desert was now their home and they had to survive.
Voortrekker taught them how to dig wells with their trunks and which shrubs contained the softest, moist foods. He showed them how to store water in a poach in their throats to use a couple of hours later, when they weren’t near the watering holes anymore. He led them straight to the fragrant Commiphora plants for a special treat.
The original group of 20 elephants split into three distinct family units, each favoring specific areas of the Desert for themselves. Over the years they travelled many miles, their feet developing wider than those of other elephants. They became skinnier than normal elephants, and they started nursing their babies for twice as long to adapt to the harsh conditions.
These elephants are still resident in the region and have formed the nucleus of three distinct breeding herds, making the Ugab/Huab Rivers perhaps the most viable desert elephant habitats in the world. Voortrekker continues as the Godfather, a true legend of the Ugab. His ancestral knowledge has been passed down to a new generation of desert dwellers. What a legacy
In 2008, the Namibian government decided to issue permits to hunts these elephants. Six permits were issued, one for Voortrekker. An urgent appeal was launched with the help of Desert Elephant Conservation in order to stop the hunt, but five elephants still got killed.
A group of 10 dedicated women took up Voortrekker’s cause, and walked 140 kilometers (about 87 miles) through the desert in order to raise the funds needed to buy the bull elephant’s permit. His hunting tag was successfully purchased from the Government for a total of $12,000 USD, as a live trophy. The other five elephants had lost their lives, but Voortrekker was now a living legend.
2019 – Prior to the hunt in the ever smoldering human – wildlife – conflict, the management committees of the Otjimboyo, Sorris Sorris and Tsiseb conservancies asked the goverment for a meeting to discuss ways to avoid the killing of Voortrekker, one of the oldest living bull elephants in Namibia. Their letter said: “Our people are in general accepting of the elephants’ presence and want them to remain in the area … it is our belief that the shooting of elephants does not solve the problem. In fact, this only makes it worse. We want to keep our communities safe and to do this we need to ensure that our elephants are calm and relaxed when entering villages. It is our belief that the shooting of elephants or scaring them off with gunshots, screaming or chasing them off results in aggressive animals and this cannot be tolerated.
Those protests fell on deaf ears, and Voortrekker was shot and killed by a hunter. It appears that the life of a magnificent elephant, worth an incalculable amount as a tourist attraction was sacrificed for a mere N$120 000, much of which will go to the professional hunter guide and in licence fees to MET ( Ministry of Environment & Tourism ), with little trickling down to the communities.
Voortrekker had a personality all of his own, and with his infinite and ancient knowledge, his wisdom has helped to bring the Namib Desert elephants to the current population numbers; if left alone, they will survive and prosper.
Elephant´s in Art
It’s no wonder why elephant art is a classic choice who can resist the soulful eyes and large floppy ears of this gentle giant. From delightful illustrations to bright bold works, tie a knot in your trunk so you don’t forget this emotive collection. Start thinking now about where you’re going to hang your wild masterpiece!
Yours in Art